Here are excerpts from the first-person account of a survivor in the bus hostage-taking incident at Quirino Grandstand in Manila, Philippines.
Lee Ying-chuen was one of 25 Hong Kong tourists aboard the Hong Tai bus that was taken hostage by Rolando Mendoza. Her story of their ordeal inside the bus was published last week in the Chinese newspaper Ming Pao Daily News.
In the article titled “Give justice to the victims, Not direct anger at the weak,” Lee Ying-chuen lambasted the Philippine government and the Manila police for their incompetence but called on Hong Kong citizens not to blame Filipino citizens, especially the Filipina domestic helpers in Hong Kong.
Excerpts from her story:
Rolando Mendoza was initially kind to the hostages
“Through the interpretation of our local guide, we learned that [Mendoza] was a policeman who had been dismissed unfairly. He was originally scheduled to retire in January next year. He wanted the government to re-open his case, give him his job back and restore his 1 million peso pension payment.
The gunman apologized to us many times. He said that he did not really want this to happen to us. He only needed us to help him force the government to pay attention to his case. He emphasized repeatedly that he would not harm anyone as long as we cooperate with him.
During the first few hours, the gunman was calm when he spoke on the phone. Often times he smiled. He kept saying, “Ok, ok.” This reassured us. Periodically he would emphasize again that he would not hurt us.”
I planned on simply kicking him out of the bus!
“Several times the gunman opened the front door of the bus and stood on the steps. I really wanted to race up behind him and kick him out. I rehearsed the move many times in my mind. But I was afraid that I could not communicate with the driver and I was worried that he would not be alert enough to close the door and drive away immediately, leaving the time for the gunman to counter-attack … I thought about many possibilities. In the end, I took no action. This may just be an excuse for my fear and cowardice.
Time dragged on without any sign of resolution. The team mates at the rear of the bus discussed several times about subduing the gunman. We noticed that he always carried his weapons on him. We determined the best spot to attack him. We looked for objects around us to use as weapons. I said that although I am short and weak, if the guys can hold him down, I can grab his gun and hold his hand down so that the people in front of the bus can escape. Mr. Leung also instructed his children to assist during our assault. But in the end, we wavered and did not do anything, all because the gunman kept moving the stated deadline back and back while waiting for a government response.”
And then the shooting rampage began
“Sometime between 5pm and 6pm, the gunman got the tour leader Masa Tse to move from the last seat to the front. The gunman handcuffed Tse to the front door in an attempt to scare the government. He said on the phone: “Five minutes!” The gunman never asked for our names. He only counted the number of persons. Perhaps he needed to cite the number of hostages in his negotiations. Five minutes passed. He did not shoot anyone. He made many more phone calls with the outside. After more than half an hour, he got more agitated. I sensed that he was getting angrier. The television was still on, showing the live coverage of the incident. After another half hour, he still did not take any action other than speaking on the phone.
The television showed the police arresting his younger brother. He probably saw that. But what led him to start shooting was a phone call. He hung up and immediately took out his gun. “Bang!” The first shot killed the tour leader. Then he walked from the front to the back, shooting at the passengers. Mr. Leung and some other men rushed forward to stop him. I heard “Bang! Bang! Bang!” The men fell down on the floor.”